CFPB Chief: ‘Not Trying to Burn the Building Down’

May 16, 2018

At the 2018 REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo, NAR members gained insights into financial consumer protection, net neutrality challenges, and sexual harassment liability in housing, among other issues on the first day of sessions.

NAR President Elizabeth Mendenhall and Mick Mulvaney listen to an audience question during the forum.

Mulvaney: CFPB Still Protecting Consumers

Mick Mulvaney, the acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, dispelled the perception that he’s trying to get the federal government out of the business of protecting consumers, as critics have charged. Rather, he said at a regulatory forum on Tuesday at the REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo that he’s directing the agency to do what it’s been statutorily empowered to do without stretching the agency’s mandate. “Many bureau employees were convinced I was trying to burn the building down,” said Mulvaney, adding “We’re just trying to get back to basics.” Read more about Mulvaney's remarks at the forum.

Net Neutrality as Talking Point

Technology doesn’t often make it to the top of the list of action items at the REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo. But net neutrality is one of four major talking points for members meeting with lawmakers on Capitol Hill this week—only the second time that the technology policy issue has been elevated to such a high level for this week's Hill visits.

NAR senior policy representative Melanie Wyne addressing the Federal Technology Policy Committee.

After the Federal Communications Commission eliminated rules that forbade ISPs from discriminating against content and information providers online late last year, NAR expressed concern about how such a move might negatively impact its members and consumers.

“The reason this matters is: Imagine there’s a large listing aggregator who has deep pockets,” NAR senior policy representative Melanie Wyne told the Federal Technology Policy Committee, many of whom responded with knowing murmurs about the company she was presumably referring to, Zillow. “Their content is going to get delivered faster than anyone else with content on the internet.”

NAR members will be talking to their congressional representatives about two opportunities to reverse the FCC decision: the Senate’s congressional review act and, in the House, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.)’s plan to introduce the 21st Century Internet Act. Learn more about the probability of changes to net neutrality rules and other tech topics discussed by the committee, including the federal government’s workshop to examine competition in the real estate industry.

Sexual Harassment in Housing

The issue of sexual harassment in housing is gaining more visibility as the result of a recent initiative by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Justice. While public awareness about quid pro quo and hostile environment claims is more established in the context of employment law, the federal government is increasing consumer outreach in regard to housing. Read more about the efforts to improve awareness.

FEMA Head: Put U.S. on Better Storm Footing

William B. “Brock” Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said most homeowners do not carry any type of emergency insurance, whether flood, fire, or earthquake, and instead rely too much on FEMA recovery assistance. “Insurance is your first line of defense, not FEMA,” he said. As an example, Long noted that during historic flooding in Houston last year, between 800,000 and 1 million homes were impacted, 80 percent of which were not insured.

Long told attendees that the National Flood Insurance Program is tens of billions of dollars in debt because the country has seen a dramatic escalation in large-scale natural disasters. He said FEMA is currently dealing with 695 open disasters, also known as events. “Last year, we had a new event every three days,” he said.

Long asked REALTORS® to press the importance of reforming and reauthorizing federal flood insurance with their congressional representatives this week. He also asked REALTORS® to help educate consumers about the need to insure their homes properly and to acquire the financial literacy necessary to improve their credit scores and free up money for the insurance they may need. “I’m asking for a partnership all across the U.S. for REALTORS® to work with FEMA,” he said. “The system will break again with another big event.” Learn more about the National Flood Insurance Program.

Fox Business Network anchor Trish Regan

Fox Anchor: Trump Positioning Economy for Growth

Regardless of what you think of the way he conducts himself in office, President Donald Trump is taking a fresh look at the country’s regulations and trade agreements with an eye toward economic growth, according to Fox Business Network anchor Trish Regan. “We’re still seeing real excitement over his effects on this economy,” Regan told REALTORS® Tuesday at the federal political forum Tuesday morning. “The economy is doing well, better than in last decade, and jobs and confidence are up. Even wages are up a little bit and will keep going up.”

Regan said policymakers and business leaders have historically been reluctant to upset the apple cart on trade, and that has hurt the economy because so many countries impose still tariffs on American goods. She cited a 25 percent tariff China imposes on American cars, a 100 percent tariff India charges on American motorcycles, and a large tariff Columbia imposes on American produce. “We have a disrupter in Washington. He’s not going to stop until he achieves what he wants.”

Looking ahead, she said she hopes higher interest rates will light a fire under consumers and businesses to start spending now—whether it’s business investment or buying a house—before rates rise higher.

The Link Between Fun and Professionalism

When it comes to education, your agents may ask, “What’s in it for me?” But professionalism benefits everyone in the industry. During the Idea Exchange Council for Brokers on Tuesday, industry powerhouses discussed ways to encourage professionalism and build knowledge among agents, offering tips about what’s worked at their companies. Takeaways include: On-the-job mentoring is still the most desirable way for agents to build skills, and incorporating fun can be your most valuable tool. Learn more about the connection between fun and professionalism.

—REALTOR® Magazine